A generation ago, one of my virtual reality colleagues suggested that – in the future – people would pay good money to spend time an empty virtual world, holidaying in an environment free from stimulation, distraction, or activity.
On this side of our information revolution, what once seemed dry sarcasm about the spare nature of early virtual worlds – expensive to create, they remained largely empty – now feels perfectly prescient.
The real world of the mid 21st century, symbolically dense, overstimulating, and panoptically aware of our presence within it – always watching – totally crowds out any innate sense of ourselves. It’s gotten to the point that we openly long for (and secretly dread) any brief encounters with a world that simply exists on its own terms, empty and asking nothing of us.
If I covered my eyes with a display that projected only a perfect black, and my ears with headphones that cancelled even the smallest ambient noise, I could visit a space of sensory deprivation. With nothing presenting itself to my senses, my interior landscape would slowly relax into whatever it believes is its natural shape.
As soon as my attention wanders, that brief moment of freedom vanishes. I find myself in another reality: memory. The empty stage quickly populates with experiences, new and old, that have somehow left their mark on me.
This could be a profoundly therapeutic moment: Freudian psychoanalysis uses the analyst’s couch in a similar way. The patient lies down, relaxes, the mind wanders, and – with some guidance – unconscious forms emerge.
Confrontations with the unconscious tend toward the unexpected and unpleasant, psychic wounds seeking the healing properties of light and air. So, unless directed, I will wander away from the uncomfortable, dromomaniacally bumping up against more of my mind’s unconscious architecture, repeating this process until I either seek refuge in sleep, the quiet anxiety of boredom, or consuming panic.
My experience of nothing paradoxically forces a confrontation with everything within me.
The virtual world – like a funhouse mirror – twists and amplifies invisible qualities of being, stretching my psychic dimensions into hyperbolic forms, reflecting them back in a way that allows me both to see and ignore the truth. I am unreal, but recognisable, revealing parts rarely seen, rendered at monstrous scale.
Because it is empty, the virtual world becomes the ideal screen for the projection of my self, making the unconscious, if not conscious, at least visible. All of the neurosis, narcissism and psychopathies that lurk beneath my skin in the real world find their way into the virtual world as tangible expressions, because the virtual is entirely psychical. Its manifestations are projections of me.
As a psychic microscope, the virtual world should be the greatest tool ever offered in what Philip Rieff called “The Triumph of the Therapeutic.” The virtual world can expose the unconscious in an almost predictable and systematic way. I can get a look into myself nearly impossible by other means. Yet, with the exception of works by a few pioneers like Sherry Turkle, there have been no psychoanalytic approaches to a space that is definitionally psychoanalytically composed.
It’s as if we have created an MRI for our souls, but are too afraid of what we might see to slide ourselves into this psychic machinery and begin the scan. Why? In the unconscious, observation means destruction. Once exposed, my automatic enactments of psychic injury lose their capacity to command me, that being the entire point of the psychoanalytic project: self-actualisation advancing through an erosion of the unconscious into consciousness.
As a culture, we practice precisely the same avoidance we observe in individuals. We don’t want to look inside ourselves, alone or together. This is a great loss, because the potential for a global therapeutic capacity – using a tool that could make us collectively more sane – has never been part of our expectations for the virtual world. At every moment, our cultural unconscious presents itself for view in the virtual world, but our culture ignores that as unconscious.
An ignored unconscious does not disappear. Instead, it swells and occupies more and more of the psychic space of culture until little room remains for anything other than avoidance of the unacknowledged. We’re running away from what we can not admit to, and we’ve nearly come to the end of our tether.
Individuals dominated by an unexamined unconscious exist in a continual state of mechanical reaction, seeking something – anything – that will help them look anywhere other than at itself. For many, that means sleep. For others, boredom. And for some, a rising panic. The same is true for this entire culture. All of us, connected as one, spending all of our time avoiding together.
This pervasive, collective, connected unconscious has become the unspoken foreground of individual and cultural life in the middle of the 21st century. Unseen and unacknowledged, we slide into avoidance, avoidance becomes neurosis, and all cultural activity unconsciously amplifies the presence of the unconscious.
The longer we ignore this quality of the virtual to expose our inner selves, the more it dominates and controls us.
TWO: THE SEA OF FECUNDITY
If the virtual world existed in its own plane, entirely separate from the real world, we could entertain the option of a tactical withdrawal, closing the door and sealing off its psychic amplifier. But the moment to make that choice has passed.
Long before humans visited the virtual, intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic had colonised virtual space, bending it toward their own ends: the markets.
When William Gibson casually noted, “Cyberspace is the place the bank keeps your money,” he said less about the ephemeral nature of cash in a connected world and more about the nature of the entities already long present when Gibson got around to naming that space in the early 1980s.
It makes a perfect sort of sense that the money economy – purportedly the ‘rational’ basis for our culture – inhabits a space that amplifies our neurosis and psychopathy. Money makes us crazy, so where better to keep it than a space that makes us crazy?
In its own way, money – and especially paper money – represents our first encounter with anything that is virtual. Money is the placeholder for all other goods and services, but represents nothing in itself. The allure of money lies in the imaginative leap it demands of its bearer. When you hold a bank note in your hand, you never see it for what it is. Instead you look through it to all of the possibilities it opens onto. Just like the virtual world, money acts as a projection screen for our souls.
The virtual world contains money, and money contains the virtual world. And it’s been this way for a lot longer than we might be aware. Long before Gibson named anything ‘cyberspace’, the storage of wealth in the virtual world generated its own attractive force, almost gravity-like, emanating of all of its money.
Secured (for the most part), invisible (for the most part), and rarely spoken of, the origins of the ‘black hat’ hacker – the 21th century equivalent of the bank robber – grows out of this earliest purpose for the virtual world. Put enough invisible money into the virtual world and individuals will begin to treat both that money and the virtual world as thoroughly real. It’s as if we placed a funhouse mirror against a funhouse mirror: reflected distortions become the only visible feature.
Money found its ideal partner in the virtual world, each making the other seem more real than either could ever be on their own. Before long, others beyond the community of bankers and thieves confused virtual and real. Each looked into the virtual world and saw money reflecting their hearts’ desires. Those desires, projected onto the virtual world, made it seem real.
The rest happened with astonishing speed, the virtual world bursting through into the real world, glowing with the colour of money. In the early days, this could only happen under tightly controlled conditions – large computers with fast and sophisticated communication links into the virtual world. But the glamour of virtual world quickly grew so strong – because of money – that it bent the material world toward it, like matter falling into a black hole. In accelerating succession, a series of technologies brought the virtual world and its riches ever closer to an ever larger number of humans, culminating (as of this writing) with the intersection of the smartphone and the World Wide Web.
I have a smartphone, and chances are high you have one, too. We think of them primarily as devices for connection, but we’re equally possibly even principally drawn to these devices by love of money. Through smartphones, the vast majority of adults on the Earth have quickly been gathered into a single, global space of commerce, connecting a triumphant, universal virtual world, each of us drawn there by the love of money.
The virtual world, ‘over there’ just a generation ago, has, via money, become so interwoven into the fabric of the real world, it has become difficult to imagine life without its virtual aspect – because the virtual world, through its relation to money, has become identified with the most material aspects of the real world.
People look to the virtual world and see the real world. People look at the real world, but more and more look through it, into the virtual world. That’s given the real world the consistency of a Swiss cheese or highly leavened loaf of bread: full of voids, containing nothing.
Here or over there makes no difference any longer. Neither has any particular meaning. The real world invaded the virtual world, placed its money there, but that invasion made the virtual world irresistible to the real world. We opened five billion doors (one for every smartphone) to this conquest and colonisation by the virtual world. For us, the virtual world has become the real world.
THREE: ARTS AND MINDS
With money comes people.
Everyone connected to the money economy has a reason to be deeply involved in the virtual world. We mind our own business, and – because we are human – we naturally involve ourselves in the business of others.
This brings a new and unexpected dimension to community.
In addition to the face-to-face of the real world, another space for connection now exists. Born from commerce and the love of money, cyberspace has been overwhelmed by our all-too-human drive to communicate. We could not claim that people do not love money, but we know that for the vast majority, we love one another more than money.
The virtual world, originally and still stubbornly commercial, has become the chosen ground for relating to one another. As soon as we spied one another – peeping out from behind the curtain of transactions – we engaged. We find ourselves compelled to connect because other people are infinitely complex, unknowable, and the only truly interesting aspect of the virtual world.
Each of us gets the opportunity to peer into the fascinating depths of others – or at least imagine we see depths in others. There remains the very real possibility that these funhouse mirrors of cyberspace exaggerate human depths. Things online seem more dramatic, ironic, or profound because the online world distorts and amplifies those qualities. We come across full of sound and fury, signifying only that we imagine in one another depths we pretend to ourselves.
Yet this pretense has endured. It dominates conversation. Connected through the virtual, people appear extreme – we seem smarter or stupider, fairer or more prejudiced, happier or more miserable. Reflected in these mirrors – and in the gaze of countless others – human strengths and human foibles amplify to absurd endpoints, an overstimulated emission of emotion.
In the virtual world, every human act of consequence tends to arc toward the absurd. Constant exposure has led us to believe these absurdities are reality, and not just reflections off funhouse mirrors, products of a virtual world which tends to distort real modesty into virtual profanity.
In comparison to the excitements of the cyberspace, we find reality flat and unexciting. Now habituated to virtual overstimulation, we focus on and connect through the virtual because it delivers the hit of absurdity we crave, and with every dose reality seems somehow less real.
We prefer wild exaggeration to a dull truth, and the virtual world offers this choice, providing – in seemingly inexhaustible supply – a steady diet of outrages and sympathies needed to feed a growing appetite whetted by the extremes of human feeling.
To feel in the virtual world means to feel together. Feeling together can create common ground for understanding, sympathy and empathy. Sometimes, outrages can produce their opposite. We who connect to mourn an outrage often find something in one other that endures beyond a brief moment, persisting even as the outrage fades. Our worst human qualities create the opportunity for other, higher parts to appear. Make hate to make love.
The opposite appears to be equally true. When we rub up against one another intimately in the virtual world, we can see through the mirrors, into something closer to reality. The qualities we project onto one another become translucent, then fall away. That feels like a huge insult to our self, which narcissistically imagines all others as our ideal reflections, a disappointment leading to rage as these others never conform to expectations, nor do they comply with demands. Our inevitable (if infantile) disappointments, shared through these new networks of communication, become the seed for new outrages.
So it goes on, endlessly. In the age of the virtual, we cycle ever-more-rapidly through peaks of love, disappointment and outrage. We seem oblivious to the source of this cycle – emotional attachment. We get such such a charge in the virtual world that it makes us blind to its capacity to bring out the worst in us. The drive to connect that serves us so well in the real world – as evidenced within families, tribes, villages and cities – unexpectedly produces its opposite in the virtual world. The closer we come together, the further we feel driven apart.
These emotionally overwhelming moments of community in the virtual world inevitably bleed over into our real experiences, as we pin the feelings experienced in these funhouse mirrors of ours souls to the people we meet in the flesh. The virtual world so completely informs our expectations for the real world that where they don’t agree – and that’s at almost every point – we experience frustration. Why isn’t the real world like it is online, we ask ourselves, further confusing the confected outrages of the virtual world with the petty annoyances of the real one. After spending time in a space of emotional overstimulation, everything assumes too much meaning.
This delicate and ridiculous balancing act – between the grounded and the absurd – frames our lives as we head into the middle years of the 21st century. Hypnotically entranced by our own shadow-play, intoxicated by our own uncontrolled emotions, and narcissistically unaware of our utter absurdities, we make faces into a funhouse mirror – and frighten ourselves.
FOUR: THE LIES OF OTHERS
The virtual world provides a place to put everything. Where the real world clutters with collections and curios, the virtual world accommodates everything from the first clay tablet to the latest text message on an equal basis.
In the real things become permanent through a combination of intent and accident; the important tends to be preserved – if incompletely – and the unimportant lost, but rarely completely. In the virtual world, only accident applies – a random power outage shorting out some vital electronics. Everything endures because the virtual world, untarnished by the entropy of apathy, keeps on keeping on.
Everything that has been known in the real could at some point be recorded in the virtual world. But where the real world continually edits itself according to taste or need or history, in the virtual world, all bits hold the same value. On a comprehensive diet, the real maintains its size, while, continuously fed, the virtual grows to elephantine proportions.
Because it gets trimmed to size, the real feels superior to a obese virtual world. Something holds greater importance because it has not been culled, where something else holds less importance as part of an ever growing collection.
Our curations of the real world reflect our priorities and truths. The virtual world, open to any addition, more signal means more noise, and the eventual triumph of another kind of chaos – the entropy of acceptance. We’ve gathered so much data it signifies everything, and therefore nothing.
Because we constantly prune it back, the known in the real has always been in short supply, valued because of its rarity, like flecks of gold. We’ve built temples to the known, then universities, endowed priesthoods and established traditions to preserve and maintain the known. And though specific titles may change, these forms remain the same, consistent across civilisation, throughout the world.
Orwell’s ‘memory hole’ can only exist in the real world, where the physical productions of knowledge can be tracked, altered, or destroyed. In the virtual world, an inverse quality arises in the ‘Streisand Effect’: the attempted deletion of anything produces widespread duplication and dissemination. Things can be forgotten in the virtual world, and easily misplaced, but destroying something has turned out to be quite difficult.
Suddenly, we confront this tsunami of ‘all and everything’. The virtual world makes its claim to be both alpha and omega, accepting all, becoming the ultimate reference point: this is how Wikipedia overran Encyclopedia Britannica.
Increasingly the virtual world encompasses all we know. This will only ever be approximate, as we continue to narrow down the few facts that haven’t found their way into the virtual world – but it’s true enough. Knowledge outside the virtual world still has tangible value – embedded in our bodies and experiences, but only a dedicated few of us will endure the difficulties associated with knowledge in the real world to locate and make use of it.
We’ve got everything, and that’s made us fat and lazy: providing all knowledge in a great cornucopia has become the great gift of the virtual and its most harrowing curse. Bill Gates once promised “knowledge at your fingertips” would change everything. It did. Anything known by anyone is now known to everyone. With this, the ‘burden of omniscience’ (a paranoid delusion that someone in authority somewhere observes and understands all) has become a universal expectation. Not a sparrow falls to the ground unseen.
As we make this transition from the scarcity of knowledge in the real world into the endless, meaningless abundance of virtual world, we navigate between Scylla and Charybdis. The breadth and ease of knowledge creates a dizzying sense of possibilities, a utopian prospect of a world perfected through a universal franchise of knowledge. But we’ve learned one thing above all others: the known and the true need not necessarily move together. Much of the known bears no relation to the truth.
“Knowing is doing, and doing knowing.” Where we are informed by truth, knowledge extends our capacity to do what we will. But where knowledge is not true, and we act on that, the result can only be an eventual catastrophe. “Reality is that which kills you when ignored long enough.”
The power of the virtual world comes from its absolute acceptance of any knowledge on an equal basis, but we must not see acceptance as an assertion of truth. The virtual world lies as easily as it speaks the truth, and because it lacks any discernment, it can not judge between the two. The virtual world does not know when it lies to us, so it can not stop lying.
Those corners of our lives most infiltrated by the virtual world have seen truth replaced by ‘truthiness’; reassuring lies we find, share and broadcast as we tumble through this vast sea of meaning without guide or editor, pouring through an unfiltered melange of fact and fiction.
So much of history has been filled with the telling of tall tales it seems perfectly natural that we continue to tell the tale. But the lie commonly agreed will be insufficient to the demands of the future.
FIVE: DARK FOMO
The virtual world, crowded with our voices, a billion-throat chorus of chaos, chitters unceasingly, whispering sweet nothings, shouting alarums, resolving into a steady hum of something left undone.
That continual siren’s song speaks of what may be and what, for some – right this moment – is. We see photos and selfies and snatch brief descriptions of wonders we will never experience as it dazzles and tantalizes and seems utterly substantial and believable. Its glamour carries it along, weaving it from mouth to mouth until the fabric of fascination takes on its own character. We can’t believe it ourselves, so we share it with others.
Almost too good to be believed, almost too specific to belong to anyone in particular, we see these moments captured, captioned, and shared, as each gets shared and forwarded and and amplified beyond all recognition.
These distillations of desire fly like arrows through the virtual world, piercing anyone who looks upon them with lust in their heart. They are like hungry ghosts, sweeping the virtual world for souls organised around desire and thereby a ripe target for possession.
If we have nothing within ourselves, we find ourselves powerless to resist, for this nothing fills us with with the promise of everything we want. It whispers all the lies of every dream fulfilled. It offers nothing, yet promises all.
Filled with nothing, these desires so severely the warp our souls that the real world can no longer be seen. Instead we find ourselves transformed into unthinking, irrational creatures of no sense and all hope, faithfully expecting a complete and sudden change of circumstance, without recognising the impossibility of our beliefs. Hollowed out by our hungry ghosts, we prefer annihilation to illumination, avoiding the truth for as long as we can live in someone else’s dreams.
Other voices, speaking not of impossible longings, but instead extolling the virtues of the ordinary, things that bind us to the real, preference a boring truth over an exciting lie, and the comforts of home as a defense against the extraordinary tales luring listeners into prisons filled with hungry ghosts.
After such an enormous, collective dose of extraordinary – billions of moments from millions of others – something more ordinary would come more naturally to us. It might even help to balance this sudden move into a virtual world that lies about its promises so comprehensively.
Breathing space, that’s what we need. Can we put aside the alluring chitter of a billion voices, just focusing on the sound of the breath – in and out, in and out – reflecting, mindfully in single voice and from a whole self?
Even here, hungry ghosts seeks to lure us with sweet promises of individual will über alles, a romantic fantasy of living alone and acting alone and performing alone – above all others. Down this path, narcissism and selfishness dominate us in each proclamation of our eternal, inalienable freedom, producing the ideal conditions for an eternal possession; true freedom comes only after we see the chains, and accept that we have been enslaved.
Danger lies everywhere, alone and together, and only the rare soul has not seen a visit by hungry ghosts. For that reason our immediate concern might best focus on the techniques of exorcism: how does one expel these demons?
Being modern, scientific folk, we lie beyond the reach of the traumatic interventions of ritual and prayer. Instead, we must practice mindfulness, filling ourselves with something other than the desires of others. Hungry ghosts need to feed constantly on the desires of the living, and where those energies have dried up, they immediately decamp, seeking the richer pastures of a more susceptible soul.
If we can keep our focus firmly located in the world, it will provide the ‘re-mind-er’ to be mindful. But a reminder is not a reason. That must come from within us, driven by a desire of a different order; not the lust of fantasy we can never realise, but a real love received and accepted from the highest part of ourselves. That moment of ‘gratuitous grace’ – as Aldous Huxley well named it – offers us the choice of liberation.
Do we choose to be free, or do we find our dreamy desires too tempting? Each of us faces our own moment of decision every time we open a door onto the virtual world and gaze upon its glamours. Is this all we are? Is this all we wish to be?
Multiply that interrogation by billions and we come to a greater moment of decision, a crisis which will force us into either clarity or confusion, ascending into something more like ourselves, or descending into an increasingly narrow envelope of unquenchable desire.
The virtual world puts this question to us at every moment, putting this question to all of us.
SIX: BEGGAR THEY COME
Everything about the virtual world promises successful outcomes – rich, happy, well-connected, well-informed. All knowledge made available freely to all, and all wisdom follows. Each act we take, fully informed, expresses a perfection of influence approaching the Absolute. Illuminated from within by this culture of knowledge, all things appear as lights: “Omnia quae sunt, lumina sunt.”
Yet our eyes see less than the whole, perceiving only what they can understand.
We look upon our works and declare them good, for we are good and good can only create good. We judge ourselves leniently, one approval leading to another, then another, and another in an endless sequence that acquires authenticity by virtue of its own continuity. Seeing only good in ourselves, our works must be good.
The funhouse mirrors of the virtual world have their antecedents in each of our souls, for nothing can exist in the virtual unless we put it there, and we can only draw from our knowledge. This knowledge reflects the parts of ourselves that seem good – all the rest suppressed into the unconscious – so the warps and blindnesses within us look normal when we see them within the virtual world. They are our most familiar features.
Pretending dark is light, we infuse all we look upon with that same darkness, ignoring our real essence – unpleasant and unfamiliar – replenishing it with nothing. The real world has been undermined by this progressive darkness, giving way to the negative absolute of utter virtuality. Triumphant, nothing surveys its kingdom, seeing nothing everywhere. We sleep.
Dreams disturb this strange slumber – the only way in through egos so hardened by delusions of their own perfections that they admit no light. Revealing hell in rage and fire, these dreams shout us into another kind of wakefulness: the dark night of the soul.
Woke. Aware only of heartbeat and anxiety, the world seems too small and too tight and too short and nothing too close for comfort. Light and dark reverse for a moment, illumination fades to black: Has it all ended so quickly? All over, and nothing to show for it.
In this moment we confront a choice: do we turn over and go back to sleep (in reality spending endless hours worrying into a timeless night), or do we rise up, and walk a different path. Sleep ends in fire and nothing, while a walk eventually comes to the Bo tree, and a moment’s touch.
Look hard enough – as Buddha did – and perfection disappears in reflection. The perfect, ever the enemy of the good, evaporates back into nothing. If we choose to look, we see it really does not exist. Once we see that, and are revealed to ourselves as broken and incomplete, we can approach the Absolute on its own terms, in its own time.
Of this little can be said except that the attempt contains within it all that can ever be achieved.
Of anything else, what should we say? “When a monkey looks into a mirror, no god looks out.” Lost in the funhouse, panicked, beset on every side by wrathful demons who pursue us out of pure, mad love – emanations of our souls and thus forever bound to us – flight consumes all and leaves us nothing. If we run, we might never stop running. If we stop, we will always need to calm ourselves – because we will always want to run.
If we wait until the very end, that sudden and unexpected stop when the prison doors open of themselves, what can we do? If we have spent our lives running from ourselves, great liberation produces the greatest fear.
Then we begin again, recycling darkness back into light: that’s life!
SEVEN: CRONE OF THORNS
At this moment in time, we awkwardly straddle two worlds – the virtual and the real. Entranced by visions, our heads in the clouds, we ignore our bodies – until we stumble and fall.
The Norse god Odin had a solution for this; blinded in one eye, he could always see within, looking upon the virtual landscape of everything within us. A modern Odin mind find that landscape populated with all of the qualities we’ve imported into the virtual world, old sins given new life in a realm unconstrained by the sharp rebukes of social forces that see these for the chaos they portend. For if enough of us function from fear, greed, anger, deceit, envy, pride, everything falls apart. The centre can not hold.
Yet Hope endures, even in chaos, because our self-wrought Hells bring with them the refiner’s fire. We can burn, feel the pains of our dross consumed utterly, and then arise, phoenix-like, born anew. “It is impossible to achieve the aim without suffering.”
Each day brings its own troubles, and each time its own tortures. The problems of our present precisely match the needs and the capacities of we who face them, like hammer and anvil.
These problems – our problems – emerge from the gift of the virtual world: a universal, unconscious collectivity. We are connected but do not yet understand that, nor what it means for us. Instead, we thrash about like a blinded Cyclops, powerful and terrified, smashing all to wrack and ruin. Who has done this? “No man.” We never find the fault in ourselves, blaming others for our circumstance, until the ruin of our world.
But we can not bestow the gift of seeing on one another. I can not force you to see the world through my eyes any more than you can force me to see it through yours. This gift can not be given. It can only be received.
Here’s the test for each of us – all of us – one that is being administered continually at an ever-accelerating rate, until we learn the lesson. In this moment it consumes almost all of our attention, because what lies on the other side of this test can not be understood until the test has been passed. The land just ahead of us is unknowable to ourselves today, invisible and impossible and just beyond arm’s reach.
We feel a rising frustration, and a growing sense that perhaps too much has been asked for – more than can be delivered. “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.” The terror of being weighed and found wanting, perfectly natural in the circumstance, the dark fantasy of choking during the exam. How we confront our terrors during this test makes up at least half of our grade.
If we surrender to fear and greed, we end in Hobbes’ ‘war of all against all’. If we give ourselves over to pride and arrogance, we drown in our own filth, and, through our deceits, believe all along we have covered ourselves in glory.
The consequences of our choices could not be drawn more clearly, even as the lines begin to blur between our our inner lives and the outer world. The virtual world acts almost like a sea-bath, healing the weeping wounds of our souls – but mostly because it provides the space for madness to boil up through every pore of ourselves, pouring out of us like disease from a lanced boil.
Some mistake that disease for themselves, and scramble after it, grasping at fearsome, hateful, ghosts. These worst examples become a warning to the rest of us, of how not to be.
Turning away from that damage, toward something whole and healed that is being called forth from us, in this moment right now, we catch a glimpse a different way of being – wondrous and unfamiliar and fleeting. With everything on the line, everything matters, for everyone.
We struggle with this, clinging onto the the devil we know. Yet if we hold fast to our past selves, we will tumble into the abyss of hallucinations, lost forever in the funhouse.
An angelic Other offers itself, but at a price: “A condition of complete simplicity / (Costing not less than everything)”.
“Sell all your possessions.”
“Surrender your attachments.”
“Let go of your hate.”
Whatever happens, nothing will remain the same. The forces brought to bear in this moment of trial can not be sustained indefinitely, for it would not be long before the refuge of madness would become universal. Illumination — or annihilation in a colder fire, unwarmed by the hearts of others, an airless, endless night on haunted, dead worlds.
Our oldest myths speak of the journey of the soul as it rises up, in its story a retelling of the tale of life: feeding, then copulating, then driven by hunger, then consumed with fear, then obsessed with the thoughts of others, then cool insight into our own being, then aspiring to the absolute.
These stories speak to the things that made us human, and to the things that will take us beyond, into the posthuman – naked but unafraid, awareness unbound, all in unity. Better to enter the fire willingly, eyes wide and heart open, ready to be consumed utterly. Et in Arcadia ego.
Hammer smashes mirror.